December 27, 2011

Stature of prehistoric Europeans

J Hum Evol. 2011 Dec 22. [Epub ahead of print]

Stature estimation from complete long bones in the Middle Pleistocene humans from the Sima de los Huesos, Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain). 

Carretero JM, Rodríguez L, García-González R, Arsuaga JL, Gómez-Olivencia A, Lorenzo C, Bonmatí A, Gracia A, Martínez I, Quam R.

Abstract Systematic excavations at the site of the Sima de los Huesos (SH) in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) have allowed us to reconstruct 27 complete long bones of the human species Homo heidelbergensis. The SH sample is used here, together with a sample of 39 complete Homo neanderthalensis long bones and 17 complete early Homo sapiens (Skhul/Qafzeh) long bones, to compare the stature of these three different human species. Stature is estimated for each bone using race- and sex-independent regression formulae, yielding an average stature for each bone within each taxon. The mean length of each long bone from SH is significantly greater (p < 0.05) than the corresponding mean values in the Neandertal sample. The stature has been calculated for male and female specimens separately, averaging both means to calculate a general mean. This general mean stature for the entire sample of long bones is 163.6 cm for the SH hominins, 160.6 cm for Neandertals and 177.4 cm for early modern humans. Despite some overlap in the ranges of variation, all mean values in the SH sample (whether considering isolated bones, the upper or lower limb, males or females or more complete individuals) are larger than those of Neandertals. Given the strong relationship between long bone length and stature, we conclude that SH hominins represent a slightly taller population or species than the Neandertals. However, compared with living European Mediterranean populations, neither the Sima de los Huesos hominins nor the Neandertals should be considered 'short' people. In fact, the average stature within the genus Homo seems to have changed little over the course of the last two million years, since the appearance of Homo ergaster in East Africa. It is only with the emergence of H. sapiens, whose earliest representatives were 'very tall', that a significant increase in stature can be documented. 


1 comment:

Crimson Guard said...

From Coon's last book:

"The Upper Paleolithic Europeans were modern Caucasoids. During their span of 20,000 years, their bodies changed physically very little if at all, for their adjustments to their environment left nothing to be desired. The famous "Old Man of Cro Magnon" was not a giant, as often depicted, but only 5 feet, 6 inches(168.4 cm) tall. The mean stature for twelve adult male skeletons was 5 feet, 8 inches 173 cm). The tallest 5 feet, 11 1/2 inchs(182cm), and the shortest was 5 fet, 3 inches(160cm). The five female skeletons recorded had a mean sature of 5 feet, 1 inch(155.5 cm) and a range from 5 feet, 1/2 inch(154 cm) to 5 feet, 2 inches(157.5 cm). This sex difference in stature varies closely with that in head size, as we shall presently see."

"There is little evidence that the Upper Paleolithic Europeans absorbed the Neanderthals that preceded them. Why the Neanderthals faded away is a mystery. One may postulate that they succumbed to diseases brought by their successors to which they had no genetic immunity, just as smallpox and tuberculosis decimated the American Indians; or one can suppose that they were hunted down by the invaders(which has also been done in modern times); or perhaps they died of crowding or of grief. (Is it possible that, because of phonemic limitations, they could not learn their invaders' languages? Or only with a poor accent?)

About the fate of the Upper Paleolithic hunters there is no mystery. They did not vanish with the mammoths on whose flesh they feasted and from whose ribs they built large oval houses on the steppes of Russia. They survived the Pleistocene, and their descendants in Europe and in Asia became Mesolithic salmon-seiners, Neolithic villagers, Bronze Age warriors, and Iron Age Vikings. They followed the reindeer to the edge of the ice, and, when it melted, they remained there. They were restless. After they had learned agriculture and cattle breeding from others like themselves who had come from the east, they expanded, migrating southward and eastward in many waves. One of those waves reached India and later spread to many other parts of the world."- "Racial Adaptations: A study of the origins, nature, & significance of racial variations in humans" by Carleton S. Coon, 1982